The Washington Post

Who Slept Here: Family guy and soccer coach Ben Olsen wanted city digs

The exterior of the D.C. United Coach Ben Olsen house in the Shaw neighborhood of Washington. (Nathaniel Grann/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

@Work Advice returns next week (keep letters coming!). Meanwhile, we’ve been telling you where some Washingtonians call, or called, home.

Many people live in a city when they are young, then move to the suburbs when they start a family. D.C. United Coach Ben Olsen did the opposite. He started off in Northern Virginia and ended up in this rowhouse in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest Washington with his wife and two young children.

A standout at the University of Virginia, Olsen joined D.C. United in 1997 and was named coach in 2010, after a playing career that included two MLS Cup championships, the 2000 Olympics and the 2006 World Cup.

As a player, he lived in Fairfax, then Arlington. “I kept creeping closer to the city,” he said. In 2000, he moved into the District but “just on the inside of Chevy Chase Circle, which isn’t really the city, right?” He finally got to Adams Morgan, he said, “kicking myself for wasting all those years living in Northern Virginia.”

When Olsen, 35, and his wife, Megan, started house hunting in 2007, they homed in on the Shaw and Logan Circle neighborhoods.

Head coach Ben Olsen of the D.C. United looks on before a game in March 2012 in Washington, DC. (Patrick McDermott/GETTY IMAGES)

“We liked Shaw,” he said. “We were looking for a little less crazy than Adams Morgan, but with the same type of vibe, same type of people. We love the arts, and we’re in an area where there’s plenty of theater and galleries.”

Olsen relishes the mix of young professionals and longtime residents, a Metro station, and knowing neighbors.

“Everybody looks out for each other. ... I feel very, very comfortable and safe in our area, and I
feel comfortable and safe having my kids grow up in the city,” he said. The neighborhood’s diversity is a plus, as well: “I want my kids to be around people and see different cultures, experience what one of the great cities in the world
has to offer.”

His favorite part of the neighborhood is the park that runs behind the houses.

“It’s a real kind of social meeting spot for parents,” he said. “My daughter actually thinks it is her back yard.”

The coach has become so enamored with his adopted home town that he is championing one of its greatest causes: voting rights. That’s him wearing a red gag in ads on buses and bus shelters bearing the line “Don’t Be Silenced.”

“I think it’s important for us to have a true voice in government,” he said, sounding like a true Washingtonian.

Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section. She covers the Washington metropolitan area housing market.
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